Over the past two decades, Brazil has emerged as an environmental leader. The country has earned praise for the expansion of its protected area network and reductions in Amazon deforestation. Yet these successes are being compromised by development pressures and shifts in legislation.

In this article, a team of Brazilian and international researchers examine the implications of recent legislative changes and proposals currently being debated in the Brazilian Congress that could open up 10% of strictly protected lands to mining development. The analysis raises four key issues. First, the existing protected area network is critical for conserving Brazil’s ecosystems, despite claims to the contrary. Second, there is potential for lasting environmental damage from effects associated with many large-scale development projects. Third, environmental mitigation policies are poorly conceived, fall short of international minimum standards for mitigation, and are unlikely to succeed. Finally, systematic inconsistencies and contradictions in the political process could undermine the credibility, effectiveness, and transparency of Brazil’s protected areas system and indigenous lands.

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